Archives for December 2018


The Christmas season is synonymous with gift giving as a token of appreciation for friends and love of family.  In the world of horses, no kinder gift can be given than one of a caring home for retired equines.  The people who save horses from bad endings truly embody the spirit of Christmas, and they work year-around for low or no compensation and usually labor in relative obscurity.  Just making ends meet is a daily worry.

Michael Blowen and Friends

Thus it was especially nice to see that the equine program in the University of Louisville’s College of Business will formally recognize a horse retirement/aftercare leader, Michael Blowen, the founder of Old Friends retirement farm in Georgetown, Kentucky, when it presents him in January 2019 with its annual John W. Galbreath Award for equine entrepreneurship.  Mr. Blowen, a former movie critic for the Boston Globe, is what is known as a “social entrepreneur” in that his organization is a non-profit, depends on donations, and does charitable work.

Once a horse’s career is over on the racetrack, he or she may find a new life as a breeding stallion or a broodmare.  But geldings don’t qualify nor do most horses with pedestrian race records.  As a result, many former racehorses face uncertain futures.  Absent individuals like Mr. Blowen and countless unnamed others who maintain retirement and aftercare facilities, the situation would be a lot worse. 

I am all but sure that the humble folks who take in retired racehorses would resist someone calling them “angels of mercy.”  But when it comes to saving retired equines at least, that is precisely what they are.

Merry Christmas.

Copyright © 2018 Horse Racing Business

Angels of Mercy


In 2012, I wrote an article for Blood-Horse magazine pertaining to the potential use of facial recognition software in identifying racehorses (click here for the article).  After it was published, I received an email from the founder of a Thoroughbred aftercare facility wanting to know how the technology might be employed to ascertain the names of horses in danger of being sent to slaughter.  Sometimes, lip tatoos can be difficult to read and in other instances a full-blooded Thoroughbred may never have been registered.  And most other horse breeds don’t use lip tatoos. 

A website called Finding Rover demonstrates the opportunity for applying facial recognition software for locating at-risk horses.  A dog or cat owner uploads a picture of their lost pet to the Find Rover website.  Similarly, animal shelters and Finding Rover users upload pictures of found dogs or cats.  Facial recognition software is used to find matches–and then owners are notified. 

The facial recognition software developed for Finding Rover is 99 percent accurate.  The main obstacle that Finding Rover must overcome is not accuracy, but rather is having enough pet owners and animal shelters participate.

A website like Finding Rover for horses would take a while to get up and running.  It would require a database of horse photos and widespread cooperation from aftercare facilities.  Whether a Finding Rover type of website for horses would work or not is an open question.  However, it is worth a try, given the number of animals that are sent to slaughterhouses every year.  Maybe Finding Rover could be persuaded to expand beyond dogs and cats to include horses. The folks at the Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance should explore the possibilities. 

Copyright © 2018 Horse Racing Business


From the early days of television to the present time, horse racing has needed more television exposure. The sport will never return to its halcyon days of fan support but increased TV time can greatly assist in developing the fans of tomorrow, especially since many major cities do not have racetracks for people to attend.

In regard to television, two recent announcements are promising. 

The New York Racing Association and Fox Sports have signed a deal whereby the latter will be the television home of racing at Belmont Park and Saratoga Race Course.  In 2019, Fox will televise 500 hours of NYRA racing and 600 hours in 2020.   This is a huge step up from the 100 hours FS2 televised in 2018.  

The other agreement is between NBC Sports Group and Ascot Racecourse.  Ascot is one of the premier race meets around the globe, and arguably the most prestigious, with longtime patronage of Queen Elizabeth II of Great Britain.  The deal is for six years beginning in 2019 and culminating in 2025.  Coverage will be for 4 1/2 hours Monday through Friday of the meet and four hours on Saturday, the final day.  Fans with an affinity for top-flight turf racing should find this TV offering to their liking.

Television does not have the capacity it once did to reach viewers, as online streaming, the internet, and gaming have eroded TV’s audiences.  Nonetheless, television is still the best way to reach masses of people, even if programming is on cable channels rather than a major network.  While the Triple Crown races and several Breeders’ Cup races draw millions of viewers on network TV, horse racing needs more TV time between the Belmont Stakes in early June and the Breeders’ Cup in early November.  The FoxSports and NBC Sports agreements offer viewers some of the best racing available in June, July, and August.

Copyright © 2018 Horse Racing Business